Mark Twain on His Book “Innocents Abroad”; His Lecture “The Frozen Truth”; and Awful Photos of Him, “Those Constantinople Pictures”
St Valentine’s Day
Washington, Jan. 8.
My Dear Miss Emma—
It is singular that the battle of New Orleans & St Valentine’s Day both come on the same day this year—singular is too tame a word—it is positively astounding. However, that isn’t what I was going to write about.
I am a thousand times obliged to you for that most charmingly worded letter. You have not listened to Mr. Beecher & marked his felicity of expression for nothing. I am not saying these things because I think they will be news to you, for they will not, or because I was surprised that you should write an excellent letter, for I was not, but because it is easier to say what is in one’s mind than to leave it unsaid.
And while I think of it, Miss Emma, I wish you would—well, never mind—it would be putting you to too much trouble. I am trying my best to write so that you can read the manuscript, but I am not succeeding very well. I have been up all night writing a lecture which is to be delivered to-morrow evening, & now my fire is out, & the gray dawn is chilly, & my hand is unsteady with cold & fatigue. But I shall be very busy to-morrow & the next day (when I am to lecture again,) & I must thank you for writing. People don’t like to have their self-complacency touched, you know, & I did feel so ridiculous in church last Sunday for writing a Valentine to a young lady, there present, who hadn’t taken any notice of it! I am very grateful that that humiliation is removed, I do assure you.
With enormous effrontery, I have entitled my lecture “The Frozen Truth!” How will that strike Mrs. Beach? It has got just about as much truth in it as it has poetry—& you may reprove me for that, now, & I won’t get angry (but if that chambermaid don’t quit hammering at that door, I’ll make her jump out of the window—I wonder if she thinks I am the early bird that catches the worm.) Chambermaids are absurd people. I hate the whole tribe of them. I wouldn’t want any better fun than writing obituaries for chambermaids. But I am wandering from my subject. I am going to send Mr. Beecher my book as soon as I recover from this rush of business. I was going to hand it to Mr. Beach in New York, but I had so many things to do that I could not attend to it. I am going to send Mrs. Beach one, also, so that she can see that I can tell the truth in print when I brace myself up to it.
When you see Capt. Duncan I wish you would tell him how busy I am, getting ready to tell the truth to-morrow night; I told him I would be present at his lecture this evening, but now I shall not be able to do it. Never mind—I WILL go & hear him to-night. I did not know that I was to lecture, myself, until I was informed of it at 10 o’clock last night. If I were unoccupied, I would run about town & canvas for the Captain to-day. It wouldn’t help his pocket any, but lecturers always like to have a crowded house.
You do say the naivest things that ever anybody said in the world, & hit the hardest possible hits, in the most comfortable way—but I like it. Your reproofs are so honest, & so pleasant, withal, that I really can’t help feeling a strong desire to deserve more of them! But I will conquer it & try to behave myself. I won’t make fun of the prayer-meetings any more. But the idea of my “reproving you in return” won’t do at all. I don’t know anything to reprove you about. I don’t know anything except to reprove you for your curious notion of offending me with a long letter. Nothing is pleasanter to me than to be offended in that way, & I shall reprove you very severely if you don’t do it again. I shall be ever so much obliged to you if you will sit down now & proceed to offend me awfully.
What was it I put on that envelop that suggested that Mrs. Beach was the principal of a boarding school? What in the world could it have been? What do you ask such conundrums for, & then not send the answer? I only wrote “Miss Emma Beach, 66 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.”—That was all. Now tell me what it was that put that notion in your head?
I have searched everywhere for my photographs, but I cannot find a single one. I must have put them away somewhere very carefully—& when I put anything away, I never can find it again. Still, I will institute another search, & will find a picture & send it to you. Those Constantinople pictures were very bad, though. I might almost as well send you a photograph of the Sphynx—it would look as much like me.
I got a good long letter from Mrs. Fairbanks, yesterday,—just such a bright, pleasant letter as that most excellent woman always writes.
Come, Miss Emma, send me some more reproofs & upon my word I will do all I can to profit by them—do you note my address?
Your friend, & always your well-wisher,
SAML L. CLEMENS